February Books

In February, I read quite a lot.  However, very little of it was for leisure.  I am currently taking an online class through my college, titled Women Writers.  At first, I was rather wary about this class, because I thought it would have a very modern feminist undertone.  I have said it before and I will say it again; I am not a feminist, at least not of the modern definition.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  This class is more a study of how the literary voices of women changed and grew over time, and how women desired to be seen as men’s intellectual and spiritual equal.  In our first unit, we covered Julian of Norwich, Anne Askew, and Queen Elizabeth I.  Second, we covered Anne Bradstreet, Abigail Adams, Frances Burney, Phillis Wheatley, and Mary Wollstonecraft.  And for the vast majority of February, the unit was focused on women from the Nineteenth Century; Mary Shelley, Sojourner Truth, Mary Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Jacobs, Charlotte Brontë (my personal favorite), Emily Brontë, and Emily Dickinson.

I love the writers from this past unit, although for some unearthly and completely shocking reason, we didn’t read Jane Austen.  I know, it’s pretty sacrilegious.  Nonetheless, I fell in love with this unit, and I couldn’t stop underlining things.  These women were so bold, yet so gentle, in their literary and political positions.

Sojourner Truth (who has become one of my favorites)sojourner-truth-ab

Ain’t I a Woman?

  • “Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter.  I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women of the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.”
  • “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere.  Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm!”
  • “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!”

Keeping the Thing Going while Things Are Stirring

  • “[S]o much to good luck to have slavery partly destroyed; not entirely.  I want it root and branch destroyed.  Then we will all be free indeed.”
  • “I want you to consider on that, chil’n.  I call you chil’n; you are somebody’s chil’n, and I am old enough to be mother of all that is here.  I want women to have their rights.”
  • “If it is not a fit place for women, it is unfit for men to be there.”
  • “You have been holding our rights so long, that you think like a slave holder, that you own us.  I know that it is hard for one who has held the reins for so long to give up; it cuts like a knife.”

220px-margaret_fuller_by_chappelMargaret Fuller

Women in the Nineteenth Century

  • “Those that think the physical circumstances of Women would make a part in the affairs of government unsuitable, are by no means those who think it impossible for negresses to endure field work, even during pregnancy, or for semptresses to go through their killing labors.”
  • “A house is no home unless it contain food and fire for the mind as well as for the body.”
  • “For human beings are not so constituted that they can live without expansion.  If they do not get it in one way, they must in another, or perish.”
  • “The lover, the poet, the artist, are likely to view her [woman] nobly.  The father and the philosopher have some chance of liberality; the man of the world, the legislator for expediency, none.”
  • “Yet, then and only then will mankind be ripe for this, when inward and outward freedom for Woman and mush as for Man shale be acknowledged as a right, not yielded as a concession.”
  • “As the friend of the Negro assumes that one man cannot by right hold another in bondage, so should the friend of Woman assume Man cannot by right lay even well-meant restrictions on Woman.”
  • “If the Negro be a soul, if the woman be a soul, apparelled in flesh, to one Master only they are accountable.  There is but one law for souls, and, if there is to be an interpreter of it, he must come not as man, nor son of man, but Son of God.”
  • “What Woman needs is not as a woman to act or rule, but as nature to grow, as an intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely and unimpeded, to unfold such powers as were given her when we left our common home.”
  • “From the time she could speak and go alone, he addressed her as not a plaything, but as a living mind.”
  • [T]hat the restraints upon the sex are insuperable only to those who think them so, or who noisily strive to break them.”
  • “[A]nd the many men who knew her mind and her life, showed to her the confidence as to a brother, gentleness as to a sister.”
  • “This self-dependence, which was honored in me, is deprecated as a fault in most women.  They are taught to learn their rule from without, not to unfold it from within.”
  • “No; because the position I early was enabled to take was one of self-reliance.  And were all women as sure of their wants as I was, the result would be the same.”
  • “The difficulty is to get them to the point from which they shall naturally develop self-respect, and learn self-help.”
  • “‘The soft arms of affection,’ said one of the most discerning spirits, ‘will not suffice for me, unless on them I see the steel bracelets of strength.'”
  • “When they [men] admired any woman, they were inclined to speak of her as ‘above her sex.'”
  • “Male and female represent two sides of the great radical dualism.  But, in fact, they are perpetually [assign into one another.”
  • “There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.”
  • “History jeers at the attempts of physiologists to bind great original laws by the forms which flow from them.  They make a rule; they say from observation what can and cannot be.  In vain! Nature provides exceptions to every rule.”
  • “Women must leave off asking [men] and being influenced by them, but retire within themselves, and explore the ground-work of life till they find their peculiar secret.”
  • “Man can never be perfectly happy or virtuous, till all men are so.”
  • “[B]y the law of their common being, he could never reach his true proportions while she remained in any wise shorn of hers.”
  • “In families I know, some little girls like to saw wood, others to use carpenters’ tools.  Where these tastes are indulged, cheerfulness and good-humor are promoted.  Where they are forbidden, because ‘such things are not proper for girls’, they grow sullen and mischievous.”
  • “[N]o need to clip the wings of any bird that wants to soar and sing, or finds in itself the strength of a pinion for a migratory flight unusual to its kind.  The difference would be that all need not be constrained to employment for which some are unfit.”
  • “I wish Woman to live, first for God’s sake.  Then she will not make an imperfect man her god, and thus sink into idolatry.  Then she will not take what is not fit for her from a sense of weakness and poverty.  Then, if she finds what she needs in Man embodied, she will know how to love, and be worthy of being loved.”
  • “By being more a soul, she will not be less Woman, for nature is perfected through spirit.”
  • “It is vulgar error that love, a love, to Woman is her whole existence; she is also born for Truth and Love in their universal energy.”
  • “Shall not her name be for her era Victoria, and her country and life Virginia?”

Harriet Beecher Stoweharriet_beecher_stowe_c1852

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

  • “But no, innocent friend; in these days men have learned the art of sinning expertly and genteel, so as not to shock the eyes and senses of respectable society.”
  • “And if you should ever be under the necessity, sir, of selecting, out of two hundred men, one who was to become your absolute owner and disposer, you would, perhaps, realize, just as Tom did, how few there are that you would feel at all comfortable in being made over to.”

The Minister’s Housekeeper

  • “[Y]e see, there ain’t nothin’ wakes folks up like somebody else’s wantin’ what you’ve got.”

portraitEmily Brontë

[I am the only being whose doom]

  • “‘Twas grief enough to think mankind/All hollow, servile, insincere;/ But worse to trust to my own mind/ And find the same corruption there.”

F. de Samara to A. G. A.

  • “Unconquered in my soul that Tyrant rules me still;/ Life bows to my control, but Love I cannot kill!”

[No coward soul is mine]

  • “No coward soul is mine/ No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere/ I see Heaven’s glories shine/ And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear”
  • “O God within my breast/ Almighty ever present Deity/ Life, that in me hast rest/ As I Undying Life, have power in Thee”

Emily Dickinson155_emilydickinsonsmall

*snippets from her poems*

  • “I’m Nobody! Who are you?/Are you – Nobody – too?/Then there’s a pair of us!/ Dont tell! they’d advertise – you know!    How dreary – to be – Somebody!/ How public – like a Frog -/ To tell one’s name – the livelong June – / To an admiring Bog!”
  • “A solemn thing – it was – I said – / A Woman – white – to be – / And wear – if God should count me fit – / Her blameless mystery -“
  • “Baptized, before, without the choice,/ But this time, consciously, Of Grace – / Unto supremest name – “
  • “The soul has moments of escape – / When bursting all the doors – “
  • “One need not be a Chamber – to be Haunted – / One need not be a House – / The Brain has Corridors – surpassing/ Material Place”
  • “The Soul selects her own Society – “
  • “It was given to me by the Gods – / When I was a little Girl – / They give us Presents most – you know – / When we are new – and small.”
  • “Captivity is Consciousness – / So’s Liberty – “
  • “In the Parcel – Be the Merchant/ Of the Heavenly Grace – / But reduce no Human Spirit/ To Disgrace of Price – “
  • “In vain to punish Honey – / It only sweeter grows – “

Ciao for now,

Julia

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